Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The battle for NWFP and Pakistan
Picking the lesser of two "bad guy" factions?

Musharraf's Pakistan finds itself in one tough to win situation. They toe a fine line between a population that resents US/western influence in their affairs, but also wishes to remain a US ally without exacerbating their internal violence. They are also a people that largely reject "Talibanisation" as the law of the land.

Now some officials fear that if they do not contain their internal and border problems, the US may see that as sufficient reason to come in, guns a'blazing (so to speak). Considering the rhetoric of our leading Dem candidates, they may not be far off the mark.

A senior Pakistani security official elaborated for Asia Times Online, "We have actually been thrown into a deep quagmire where we are not left with many options. The CIA's presence in Pakistan has made it impossible for Pakistan to handle the Taliban problem independently and through dialogue. On the other hand, there is no military solution on the horizon against the Taliban and another [Pakistani army] operation against militants would cause more than serious repercussions."

On the heels of the "what to do about Pakistan" debate... and Pakistan's own realization that they are damned if they accept US help, and possibly damned if they don't... there is a viable, and little talked about strategy to cut off supply lines to both the Taliban and AQ in Pakistan using both coalition troops and the Pak army.

The boundaries of the operation have been set on the basis of two facts. These are al-Qaeda's bases and the Taliban's supply lines from Pakistan into the three southeastern Afghan provinces of Paktia, Paktika and Khost and Helmand in the southwest. Al-Qaeda bases have been located in Bajaur Agency and North Waziristan while the Taliban's supply lines have primarily been traced from South Waziristan.

Of serious interest to Pak officials is... as always... the repercussions of such an operation. They know what the hornets do when their nests are disturbed. And one example of that is the diverse calvary militants, riding even now to Islamic cleric, Mullah Fazlullah's, rescue and endangering the hopeful success of the Pak army's crackdown in the NWFP.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the Pakistani military is fast losing all of its gains in the Swat Valley in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In response to rising militancy in the valley, fueled by Mullah Fazlullah, over the past few months the army has cracked down, forcing the militants to retreat into the tribal areas.

Al-Qaeda responded by activating its network through Maulana Faqir Muhammad, the local strongman of Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Faqir, from Bajaur Agency, sent men and arms into the valley, while Punjabi and Uzbek fighters from the South Waziristan and North Waziristan tribal areas joined hands with the militants. As a result, the militants have fought back strongly against the Pakistani army, which could pull back in the coming days.

Faqir Muhammad, the local Mujahideen commander, is the possibly the most wanted fugitive in the Bajaur Agency. From a Nov 2006 The News article:

The bearded young Maulana is surrounded by dozens of masked armed men, which the locals said was giving the impression as if his bodyguards are not locals.

“Why would they hide their faces if they are local when their leader is not doing so?” asked a local who chose not to be named, obviously concerned about his safety. “Our Jihad will continue and we will avenge the blood of our innocent brothers and children,” the Maulana said.

This is not the first time Faqir Muhammad and Fazlullah have battled together. In fact, in July of 2007, a familiar cast of characters re-emerges, demonstrating their long term jihad/Islamic law relationship.

In two recent incidents on Thursday July 12[2007], two suicide bomb attacks killed at least seven people, including three policemen, in town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan tribal region and Mingora, Swat.

In the north and the north-eastern districts of NWFP the militant outfits and students from seminaries did make their presence felt by attacking the personnel of the security forces and resorting to looting, burning offices of foreign NGOs working for the welfare of the survivors of the October-8 earthquake and blocking the roads after the military operation in the country's capital was over.


In the South and North Waziristan agencies where it was widely believed that the government would face a tough time at the hands of the tribal militants if Maulana Ghazi was harmed, suicide attacks have now begun. Even the Maulana had mentioned in his statements that tribal militant leader, Commander Baitullah, would come to his rescue.

Note this incident was local elements at war. There was threats if Islamabad interfered, and they were damned if they didn't by another faction.

A pattern starts emerging after cyber-reading of these men, and their intertwined destinies. There are those that see a global jihad, and those content with their own local Islamic law territories. To conquer and control these areas, regardless of the scope of territory involved, there are the warriors... quick to fight, ready and able to instill fear, and easily allied with the global jihad movement (AQ). Men such such as Baitullah, Faqir Muhammad, Zawahiri, Bin Laden, etc.

And then there are those who appear to use the election and legislative system to bring *all* of a state (i.e. Pakist) under Islamic rule. And MMA's Maulana Fazlur Rehman is one such man. In the aforementioned July event, which was inclusive (and did not end with...) the death of the Maulana Ghazi, the Maulana Fazl took a more hands off approach... preferring to use the event for political purposes instead of war. A tactic the Fazl practices even now.

Though, in a belated move, the MMA leadership is trying to use the post-operation scenario against the government by organising public rallies in Peshawar and other parts of the province, the people seem skeptical about the intentions of the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazlur Rehman. Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, heads of JI and JUI-F respectively, preferred to attend the multi-party conference called by the exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London when the Lal Masjid operation was in full swing.

It's an veritable mind game for our western minds, trying to sort out just which bad guy ends up holding power, and it's effect upon the western infidels. Who then is the worse of evils for the west? Do we opt for those that negotiate for their Islamic state thru more peaceful government means over the violent jihad players? In one way, I would say yes.

But then reality sets in. Do they not still achieve an end goal that threatens the security and very survival of the West? Whether or not their Islamic state is created via violence, or peaceful and legitimate reasons, it is in the Islamic states that the jihad movement thrives unfettered.

It's important to understand that walking that fine line will always be a reality for a Muslim democracy. And tho we know dialogue and appeasement works not between the west and militants, it is in our vested interest to see attempts for deals that work between the militants and the Muslim nations ... attempts such as the little publicized "jirga" in Kabul last summer that enjoyed a slim measure of success. If they can find a tenuous peace that results in minimizing the regeneration of jihad warriorsm we may achieve a disquieting peace in the world.

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